One of the most shameful episodes of the post 9/11 era has been the way the U.S. Government — particularly the Pentagon under Don Rumsfeld — oversaw the torture and abuse of supposed terror suspects, even though there often was little or no serious evidence against them. We’ll remember Guantanamo the way we remember the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Yet in this disgraceful episode, there have been some people fighting to salvage the nation’s honor. The defense lawyers for the Guantanamo inmates have done superb work, courageously bucking the political tide. The courts haven’t done so badly either. But some of the people I’m most impressed by are the military lawyers and other officers who saw what was happening and were so repulsed that they blew the whistle loudly — offending the Pentagon and sometimes shortening their careers. They went against their cohort, their bosses and to some extent their culture, for the sake of terror suspects of different nationalities and different religion, simply because they thought what was happening was illegal or inhumane.
Major General Taguba’s remark was also picked up by Dan Froomkin on his Washington Post blog, Andrew Sullivan, Jake Tapper, Jill Hussein C, Think Progress, the MoJo Blog, TChris (TalkLeft), On Deadline, firedoglake, Kevin Drum, a number of Daily Kos dairies, and many more.
A number of bloggers, like TChris and Jill Hussein C, seem pessimistic about the likely impact of yet more revelations about US torture. Andrew Sullivan is, however, outraged:
I started this war not as a Bush-hater, but as a Bush-defender. I started it dismissing the first rumors of torture at Gitmo as enemy propaganda. But no one with open eyes could have believed that it was made up even four years ago, let alone now. But, yes, with every new revelation and every spurious defense and every new lie, it is impossible not to feel anger. In fact, in my view, it is vital to feel anger. And not to let it subside.
Firedoglake blogger looseheadprop suggests further that the particular revelations in Broken Laws, Broken Lives have special significance.
The PHR report not only catalogues what the prisoners say happened to them, it includes the steps taken by the physicians to corroborate via physical exam, including bone scans and other testing to establish proof of scarring consistant with the stories told by the prisoners.
In seems that the interrogators focused their work on injuries to soft tissue believing it would not produce lasting scars and it would be the word of a detainee against the word of the US government.
However, some of the electroshock treatments left scars on the skin and some of the beatings left telltale scarring on the bones. Not noticeable to the naked eye, but provable with a bone scan. What PHR has done is put together the kind of forensic evidence needed to actually convict in a war crimes court.
I’m not saying that the information in this report, or the underlying backup documentation make a triable case all by themselves. I doubt that it does.
But this is a HUGE development in terms of the feasibility of bringing a war crimes trial and actually getting a conviction
Major General Taguba:
After years of disclosures by government investigations, media accounts, and reports from human rights organizations, there is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes. The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.
The former detainees in this report, each of whom is fighting a lonely and difficult battle to rebuild his life, require reparations for what they endured, comprehensive psycho-social and medical assistance, and even an official apology from our government.
But most of all, these men deserve justice as required under the tenets of international law and the United States Constitution.
And so do the American people.